Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 27, 1975 · Page 114
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 114

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 27, 1975
Page 114
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Simple gimmick brings success to Ferinell ·+ By Jay Sharbutt George Fennell has spent 22 of his 41 years in radio. He once dreamed of being on television. Now he's a TV personality in Boston, appearing on WCVB five nights a week: But his dream isn't complete yet. His fans never have seen his face on the tube. He's the mellow-voiced, shadowy star of Channel Five's "Five All Night," a wee-small-hour bag of phone talk, old series, movies and miscellany from 2:10 a.m. to 5:55 a.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. When his show starts, all the night owls see is a videotape of George in silhouette, holding forth beneath, a wide-brimmed leather cowboy hat and clad in a cowboy shirt, battered pants and boots. The in-the-flesh Fennell actually is in the announcer's booth during tJWfcshow, doing station breaks, discussing various things and occasionally warning viewers the night's movie is a real dog. Robert Bennett, WCVB's general manager, says he made Fennell the show's staff mystery man as a publicity gimmick shortly after "Five All Night" began as a one-nigh t-a- week program in late 1972. It succeeded beyond his wildest expectations, he said, claiming the show now has a fan club of 12,000 viewers, not only in Boston but also in other New England areas where the show is carried by cable TV. "Uncle George," as the fans call hiqjfc, says his empire contains "a pretty big mixture of people. There are policemen, firemen, security guards, nurses, insomniacs, and partygoers who just fell in the door. "We also have students who are cramming, writers who are writing books, and even teachers who are correcting papers. If they're moved to it, they often call up to correct me about something." The something usually is Fennell's trivia quiz, which poses such questions as: "How long does 'Gone With the Wind' run in hours and minutes? I've never really stumped the audience, though." In addition to the quiz, Uncle George also airs brief chats with the citizenry. He now tapes them from 10 to 11. p.m. each night and sprinkles the talk through the show, but says plans are afoot to air them live soon, or at least with a 12-second delay. The delay is necessary, he points out, "because when you're dealing with -people at two-thirty in the morning there are a lot of 'em who aren't playing on a full deck." Does he get amorous lady callers la* at night? "Yeah, I get a lot of proposals through the week," says Uncle George, a bachelor. "Every kind of proposal. A lot of 'em are heavy breathers. I try to be really cool about it, you know." On several nights, there are electronic light shows that briefly flash on to fill the moments between commercials, calls, trivia quizzing and the scheduled program fare, wftich is indeed a mixed assortment. This week's supply, for example, /ft. CHARLESTON, W.VA. George Fennell as he presides over "Five All Night." includes "The Candlepin Super Bowl;" "The Long View," a local show for the elderly; "Behind the Mask," a 1932 Boris Karloff flick, and even an old "Boston Blackie" rerun. Fennell says Charlie Chan movies, or "Chuck Chan" as he calls him, are the most-requested features, follewed by Sherlock Holmes movies. Each "Five All Night" edition includes a rerun of WCVB's "Good Morning" program taped the previous day. Viewers of that 90-minute show sometimes get a glimpse of Fennell in a segment called "Sidewalk Frolics" sort of an outdoors amateur minute. Alas, U n c l e George always wears a ski mask in those daytime appearances and says "with my cowboy hat on I look like a retarded Lone Ranger." He said no one so far has tried to break into the'station and snap his picture, "although we did get a picture of me in the" newspaper here once. They caught me by surprise somewhere. "It didn't please the station too much, but I didn't mind. However, a lot of people would like to blow my cover." Fennell, a popular.late night radio disc jockey in Boston and Los Angeles before becoming a night- owl TV star, was asked if the fact his face never is seen on TV doesn't do strange things to his mind. "Well, at first it did," the husky ex-Marine conceded. "Because 1 couldn't understand what the gimmick was about. And I thought maybe people would get the wrong impression of what was going on. "Like maybe they'd think I was too ugly and perhaps my face was disfigured. But when I saw the reaction to it, saw it was a great show biz gimmick, then I knew it was right. "But people still constantly ask me on the phone at night, 'Why don't you show your face?' And I tell 'em. 'Well, I'm the mystery man for a while. But some day they'll unmask me. And you'll be sor-ree.'" No ratings are available to show approximately how many New England insomniacs watch Fennel's show on week nights. The station says the A.C. Nielsen Co. stops counting heads at about the time the star, a native of Boston, starts doing his thing. Be that as it may, Uncle George considers the all-night show a public service to whoever happens to be watching it. "Sometimes there's a pretty decent movie on and people really like it," he says. "There are so many people who get home at two o'clock after partying most of the night. "They're so grateful to have television then. And it does keep a lot of people off the streets." STARS AND MILLIONS OF INVOLVED AMERICANS ARE SETTING TOGETHER FORAPARTI On Saturday, July 26, ari exciting 22-hour-long party gets underway on ABC television. It's the Democratic National Telethon. So tune in, America. And let's have a party we can be proud of. Alan Ajda * Edward Asner * Lauren Bacall * Roy Clark * Jackie Cooper Bette Davis * Donna Fargo * Henry Fonda * WillGeer * Lome Greene Jack Lemmon * E.G. Marshall * Donald O'Connor * Tony Orlando * Freddie Prinze * Helen Reddy * Delia Reese * Cliff Robertson * Richard Roundtree Susan St. James * Dinah Shore * Smothers Brothers Robert Wagner * Natalie Wood DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL TELETHON SAT THRU SUN JDLT26 AND 27 ABC BEGINS 9PM CHANMELS413 A cooy of our report is filed with the Federal Election Commission and is available lot purchase from the Federal Election Commission. Washington D C

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